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Power in global


The Specification requirements are as follows. Candidates need to have

thorough knowledge and understanding of the following:

nature of power
power as capacity (military strength; economic development; population size; level of
literacy and skills; geographical factors, etc); structural power (ability to affect the rules of
the game, influence via organisations and international regimes);
hard and soft power (ability to reward or punish (military/economic power) vs co-optive
The growing importance of soft power; rise of smart power), etc.
Classification of states great powers (features of; examples); superpowers (features
of; examples); hegemon and hegemony (features of, examples); emerging powers (features
of, examples), etc.

Debating decline of military power decline of inter-state war and rise of economic
power (impact of globalization, etc); difficulty of resolving conflict by military means
(intractable terrorist threats, insurgency or new wars, etc); military power as irreducible
core of state sovereignty;
The need to respond to new security threats, etc.
Changing nature of world order
Cold War world order Cold War bipolarity; implications of bipolarity (structural
dynamics of bipolarity; balance-of-power theory); Cold War balance of terror);
collapse of the Cold War (role of new Cold War and Reaganite anti-communism; structural
weakness of Soviet communism;
role of Gorbachev and Soviet reformers; significance for realism and liberalism).
( Note: historical questions will not be set on the rise and fall of Cold War bipolarity.)
Post-Cold War world order The new world order (the liberal moment); fate of the
new world order (rise of ethnic conflict and civil wars, etc).
US hegemony and world order nature of hegemony; rise of US hegemony (basis of US
power; neoconservative project for unipolar world);
implications of unipolarity (tendency towards unilateralism; benign hegemony (hegemonic
stability theory, Pax Americana, etc) vs oppressive or predatory hegemony (American
empire, Chomsky, etc);
implications of war on terror for world order; decline of US power? (loss of soft power;
ineffectiveness of hard power; decline of relative economic power, etc).
21st century world order rise of multipolarity; nature and structural dynamics
of multipolarity (global conflict and instability (anarchic multipolarity) vs peace
and reconciliation (multilateral multipolarity);
implications of rise of China and India and revival of Russia tendencies (China as a
superpower (the new hegemon?);

possibility of conflict between the USA and China; shift from West to East; major powers
and new Cold War (Russia vs the West?); democracy vs authoritarianism; implications of
globalization for world order; impact of global economic crisis on balance of power, etc.


A concept most commonly associated with the cold war era (c.1945-1949)

The structure and development of the international system was heavily

shaped and influenced by superpower relations during the cold war period

Each of the two main blocs was organised according to power, ideology
and regimes

Bipolarity assumes a zero sum conception of power and International


The concept of bipolarity exists in distinction to the concept of

multipolarity where there are a minimum of three and perhaps many more
spheres of influence

In military term the two blocs possessed enormous capability which in

formed the idea of MAD. It is sometimes argued that this mutually
assured destruction prevented the cold war from escalating into a hot

However, there were military exchanges between east and west, most
notably those which took place in Korea, Vietnam, Africa and Latin
America over most of the period of the cold war. Here the superpowers
either sought to maintain or extend their spheres of influence.

It is also the case that the concept overestimates the degree of internal
cohesion within the blocs. It should be remembered that French U.S.
relations have often been strained and that France left NATO in 1966. Also
The Soviet Union used tanks to crush popular rebellions in Hungary in
1956 and in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

The concept itself is somewhat flawed as it lacks a perspective on other

international developments such as de-colonisation and

Past Questions:
To what extent was the Bipolar International order more stable than the multipolar order?
When, and in what ways, was international politics best seen as bipolar?
What are the implications of Bi-polarity and multipolarity for global order?


A type of international system with a minimum of three actors with

substantial power potential to act upon and shape the international order

These actors could be states but equally blocs or coalitions

Waltz (1979) argued that international systems characterised by

multipolarity, rather than bipolarity are inherently unstable

The criteria for substantial power potential are as follows:


Where a state or non state actor can act upon and shape the international system in all of
these areas it may be regarded possessing superpower or polar potential. Where a minimum
of three actors has this range of influence then the international order is characterised as

The above criteria are also indices of superpower status but again all four
are required

Whereas as bipolarity concentrates on east west issues as the basis for

the international order a

multi-polar approach examines a wider range of issues such as Northern

Hemisphere dominance over the global economy as being equally important in shaping the
international order.

Arguments have surfaced that the international order is less multipolar

than it is unipolar with the United States the one remaining superpower. In
military terms U.S. hegemony is unquestioned as is its desire and intent to
use it. Pressure groups with close ties to the Bush White House have
founded The New American Century

Established in the spring of 1997, the Project for the New American
Century is a non-profit, educational organization whose goal is to
promote American global leadership

The end of the cold war has prompted a debate over whether we are now
entering an inherently unstable multipolar international order. The matter
is extremely complex. In economic terms the EU, Japan and the U.S. are
seen as the key poles with other actors such as the tiger economies
possessingnear pole status.

Regional powers such as Pakistan can exert tremendous influence on the

international order especially where they are seen to be vital to the
strategic interests of the U.S.A.

The transition from a bipolar to a multipolar era predates the end of the
cold war. There is the question of whether this in more or less stable than
the era of bipolarity

Past Questions:
Is International politics now multipolar?
What are the implications of Bi-polarity and multipolarity for global order?


Evans (1998) defines unipolarity as

a type of system or structure with one pole or polar actor being

identified as predominant in shaping and influencing the international

An actor being defines as any entity which plays an identifiable role in

international relations. Although the term lacks precision it possesses
sufficient flexibility and scope to overcome the limitations of the
term state.

The unipolar actor need not be a state. Historically they have tended to be
multinational empires.

Unipolar systems are likely to be stable where there is widespread

consensus throughout the system as argued by hegemonial stability

The ending of the cold war has prompted some speculation that the U.S. is
now the only superpower and in its willingness to exert this power and
influence to shape the international order it is the centre of a unipolar

At the end of the cold war Francis Fukuyama wrote that we are at the
end of history where economic liberalism and liberal democracy would
triumph and spread across the globe.

Equally however the end of history thesis could just as easily provide
the underpinnings of a multipolar order in international relations.

The real question is the extent of American military, economic, diplomatic,

political and cultural influence across the globe and the intent of the U.S.
in the exercise of such power whether unilaterally or in concert with other
actors (multilateralism).

Watch Putin, Russia and the West

Putin, Russia & The West


Short Answer Questions

What are the implications of bipolarity for global order? (15


In a bipolar international system two states or two coalitions of states dominate.

Bipolarity is mainly associated with the Cold War period as the international
system revolved around two superpowers, the USSR and the USA.

Other states defined their foreign policies in terms of their relationships with the

International systems are subject to change, and some analysts argue that the
increased permanence of alliances leading to bipolarity make major conflicts

Institutions designed to ensure peace in a multipolar world such as the League of

Nations and the United Nations then become impotent as the bipolar blocs prepare

for conflict.
However it is also argued that there is too much flexibility in a multipolar system and
peace depends on the willingness of states to form alliances when their national
interest may suggest neutrality or isolation is preferred.

Arguably the bipolar Cold War proved that a tense peace is preferable to the conflicts
found under multipolarity.

AO1: Comprehensive and detailed knowledge and understanding of bipolarity as a

concept in global politics. Knowledge of the impact of bipolarity on global order,
using examples, and in particular knowledge of the confrontational international
system that develops with rival power blocs and a zero-sum power struggle.

AO2: Sophisticated analysis of the impact of bipolarity on the international system.

Answers will assess the argument that bipolarity brings security because
international relations are dominated by two powers or power blocs. Discussion will
also analyse the extent to which bipolarity makes conflict more likely because of
inevitable confrontation between the superpowers. Of course, nuclear weapons and
MAD have made the argument that bipolarity makes conflict inevitable redundant.

How does global governance differ from world government?

Governance, broadly, refers to the various ways in which social life is co-ordinated, of
which government is merely one.

Global governance refers to the various processes through which decision-making

and co-operation at a global level is facilitated, operating through multilateral
systems of regulation.

At the heart of the emerging system of global governance is the UN and its various
bodies, together with the institutions of global economic governance, notably the
WTO, the World Bank and the IMF.

Rather than imposing their will on individual states, the processes provide the
framework for the development of intergovernmental relationships, reflecting a
growing acceptance of global interdependence.

Global governance does not only involve intergovernmental bodies, but also the
participation of non-governmental actors such as NGOs, national corporations,
global capital markets, citizens movements and so on.

World government, by contrast, refers to the idea of centralised authority operating

through a single, supranational body.

Strictly speaking, such a government would involve the establishment of a monopoly

of the use of force worldwide, as well as the surrendering of sovereignty by individual

However, the most versions of world government are based on the idea of world
federalism, in which the central authority is vested with supreme authority in
relation to certain functions, while state governments continue to have jurisdiction in
relation to other functions.

While global governance aims to containing the pressures generated by anarchy,

world government would banish anarchy altogether by establishing and enforcing an
international rule of law, sometimes seen as world law.

Although the League of Nations and the United Nations were often presented as
early prototypes of world government, neither has come close to realising this goal.

Define hegemony, and explain its significance for global order.

Hegemony, in broader terms, means dominance or leadership. Within the

international system, a state may be considered a hegemon if it is so powerful
economically and militarily that it is a dominant influence on the domestic and
foreign policies of other states.

Following Gramsci, hegemony also implies ideological leadership and the

domination of an actors values and ideas, creating hegemonic consent amongst
other actors.

It is possible to have a regional hegemon or a global hegemon (as many believe the
USA has been since the end of the Cold War).

Hegemony may have one of two implications for global order. Realists and some neoliberals have argued that a hegemon is necessary to create stability and order within
a liberal market economy, thereby bringing benefit to all the states within such an

It does this by enforcing the rules of the economic game, the USA could be said to do
this through the role of the dollar as an international currency and by its influence
over the institutions of global economic governance.

This is called hegemonic stability theory.

By contrast, hegemony can be said to stimulate resentment and hostility, particularly

amongst second-level powers, who may have an incentive to unite to undermine the
hegemonic power.

In this case, hegemony may lead to conflict and disorder, possibly through shifting
patterns of alliances. Hegemonic powers remain dominant in part through their
ability to prevent anti-hegemonic alliances being formed amongst second-level

What is the balance of power, and how effective is it in preventing war?

The balance of power can be defined in a variety of different ways, including the

An even distribution of power between rival power blocs.

The existing distribution of power, which may be even or uneven. A policy designed
achieve an even or more even balance of power.

An inherent tendency in international politics to produce an even distribution of


Views about the capacity of the balance of power to prevent war diverge, however:

Realists argue that the balance of power is the surest, and perhaps only, guarantee
that war can be avoided.

Its value is that an even distribution of power, whether brought about naturally or as
a consequence of statecraft, prevents the triumph of dominant powers.

Powers will be deterred from attacking others only if they have reason to believe they
will be unsuccessful.

Liberals, on the other hand, believe that the balance of power merely legitimises state
egoism and fosters the growth of military power.

In this view, the balance of power is a cause of intensifying tension and possibly war,
based upon a mind-set of competition, rivalry and distrust.

What are the implications of bipolarity for global order? (15


Bipolarity is the tendency for the international system to revolve around two poles
(major power blocs).

Bipolarity is often associated specifically with the Cold War and the so-called
superpower era.

Two quite different views of the implications of bipolarity for global order have been

Realists have associated bipolarity with peace and stability.

This is because a bipolar system tends to result in a balance of power as each of the
major power blocs is concerned to consolidate control over its own sphere of

Instabilities resulting from shifting alliances are therefore minimised.

Conflict between major power blocs is accepted as counter-productive, as in the

balance of terror during the Cold War period.

Liberal theorists on the other hand, have sometimes argued that bipolarity is
inherently unstable as it leads to intensifying rivalry between major power blocks, as
demonstrated by sustained vertical nuclear proliferation during the Cold War.

Essay Questions (45 marks)

To what extent is the global system now multipolar?

Multipolarity refers to an international system in which there are three or more

power centres. However, there is debate about whether the contemporary system is
now best described as unipolar or as multipolar.

A unipolar global system is one in which there is a single pre-eminent state. Many
have argued that the end of the Cold War can be seen as the unipolar moment, the

end of an era of superpower bipolarity and the birth of the world in which the USA
stood as the sole superpower.

Some have seen this as the creation of some kind of American empire, a trend
resulting from US economic successors during the 1990s, coupled with the ongoing
difficulties of other competitors, such as Japan, Russia and the EU.

The USAs unassailable position in global affairs was evident in the unilateralist
tendency of US foreign policy, particularly following the election of George W. Bush
in 2000 and in particular by the so-called war on terror.

This has been interpreted as an attempt to preserve and reinforce the USAs
benevolent global hegemony through a kind of new imperialism that was based on
unrivalled military strength, the USAs strength in promoting democracy worldwide,
and an interventionist foreign policy that was based on the idea of regime change,
achieved by military means and possible through pre- emptive attack.

These tendencies were a clear indication of the existence of unipolarity.

However, the unipolar moment in world politics may have passed, partly due to the
tendency of the USA to succumb to the problem of imperial over-reach.

Although the USA accounts for around 50 per cent of global defence spending, its
proportion of GDP is well below 50 per cent and declining in relative terms.

The economic fragility of the USA has been further illustrated by the global economic
crisis that started in 2008.

The rise of China, India and other new powers creates the prospect either of the
return of some form of bipolarity, in which global politics in the twenty-first century
will be characterised by Sino-US relations, or the emergence of a truly multipolar
system consisting of five or possibly more major world actors.

Chinas rapid economic progress, its growing military capacity and its greater
involvement in global affairs, Africa and elsewhere all demonstrate that the global
system can no longer be seen as unipolar.

Other rising powers include India, Brazil and Russia. Trends towards multipolarity
can also be seen in the implications of globalisation and the rise of non-state actors
ranging from transnational corporations to terrorist groups and new social

In this view, globalisation has strengthened a tendency towards pluralism in global

politics, highlighted by the permeability of the state and the dispersal of power
amongst governmental and non-governmental actors.

Finally, growing interdependence and the effects of the information and

communication revolution have, arguably, changed the nature of power itself and
made it more difficult for power to be concentrated in a small number of hands.

This is evident in the declining significance of hard power, particularly military

power, and the growing importance of soft power.

To what extent has the rise of emerging powers altered the

nature of world order? (45 Marks)

The growth of emerging powers, such as China, India and Brazil, can be seen to have
altered the nature of world order in important ways.

In particular, it has created conditions of growing multipolarity, in which global

power is divided amongst three or more major states.

Such a view is underpinned by economic developments, notably the fact that the
balance of power in the world economy has shifted from the West to the East,
especially due to the combined influence of China, India and Japan.

Such trends also have a political or diplomatic character, as reflected in the growing
importance of bodies such as the G20 and the BRICs countries.

However, others argue that emerging powers have yet to fundamentally alter the
nature of world order.

In most cases, this is based upon the view that none of these powers is yet strong
enough to challenge the USA as the global hegemon.

The USA remains the worlds largest economy and has a still impressive global lead
in hitech production. Similarly, its military lead over the rest of the world is still
considerable, being the only power that can sustain major military involvements in
two or more parts of the world at the same time.

As the global hegemon, the USA also continues to exert disproportional structural
power through its influence over a variety of institutions of global governance.

Global order (Thanks Mike.EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS)

USA and the NeoConservatives

With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the end of the bipolar era of
the Cold War, some (neo)realists found themselves collectively at a loss as
to what the United States should do in the circumstances of its newlyfound hegemonic power. Some urged forbearance, since, they warned, the
unipolar moment would not last: other major powers, such as Japan,
Germany, or China, would soon come to resent American primacy, and
would emerge as challengers to it, ending in multipolarity (Waltz 1993;
Waltz 2000; Layne 1993). Other neorealists saw unipolarity as more
durable, and so long as the United States actively engaged the other
major powers to reassure them of its benign intentions, hegemony could
be prolonged (Mastanduno 1997). Yet still others regarded United States
predominance as virtually unassailablean unprecedented position in
world historyand a unique opportunity to project American power and
interests globally (Krauthammer 1990-1991; 2002; Wohlforth 1999).

At first the US chose the second position, attempting to engage

multilaterally with other countries. However, things changed, and during
the Bush administration the neo-cons increasingly took the third path.

The position emphasising that the US was a global hegemon almost

unique in the history of the world seems to have been that of the Bush
administration (2000-2008) Rome on the Potomac. Thus, Krauthammer
(who was a neo-con theorist) argued that we were entering into a unipolar

era, with the USA taking the lead. The idea, floated at the time, that the
global North contained several poles of power, collaborating on a
multilateral basis was, for him, an illusion. The first Gulf War was therefore
a case of pseudo-multilateralism. The US essentially acted alone, with
the alliance offering merely the impression of multilateral action. In terms
of military power, the US towers over other nations.

He goes on to suggest that, because the US is a commercial, trading

nation it has worldwide interests which need to be defended. He is certain
that there will be times when these interests will be threatened and
require protection. The US should be prepared to avert any threats to
destabilise the existing system. The assumption here might be that
preservation of the current system is in the interest of every state (that
stability in and of itself is good, and/or, that the US is a benign power and
is much more preferable as global hegemon than most other states), or
simply that the US should be ruthless in defending its superiority
regardless of whether this is good for others.

Krauthammer was clear that US should resist its constant isolationist

tendencies. One of the expressions of such isolationism originates from
the realist foreign policy school because this school tends to define US
interests in a narrow and national manner. That is, from his perspective,
the US has no real alternative but to preserve the world balance of power.
In order to do this it cant withdraw into its shell.

It is very important to note that there is rather more to his position than
just the aim of ensuring global stability. Krauthammer, along with
Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush (and Reagan before them) did not take on a
purely realist position because they believed in the USA as a force for
good (this is idealism a foreign policy driven by ideals, such as
freedom, democracy etc as opposed to realism, which is much more
concerned with the survival of the state, and may be very wary of foreign
adventures to promote particular values). The USA was, and is, seen by
many Americans (mainly, but not just those on the political right) as a
righteous project. Terms such as American exceptionalism, and the City
on the hill (a religious analogy employed by, amongst others, Reagan),

referred to this belief that the USA is a special place Gods chosen
country. Other people around the world look up to America as a beacon.
This has been a powerful element of the US collective imagination and
clearly affects the way they engage with the rest of the world.

Krauthammer stressed that the USA has the responsibility of acting in a

manner that may sometimes be unpopular. He argued that other states
often have the luxury of not having to take on the responsibility that falls
to the global hegemon;

The main reason we oppose the land mine treaty is that we need them in
the demilitarised zone in Korea (between north and south). We (the USA)
mans the line there. Sweden and France and Canada do not have to worry
about a North Korean invasion killing thousands of their soldiers. As the
unipolar power and thus guarantor of peace in places where Swedes do
not tread, we need weapons that others do not. Being uniquely situated in
the world we cannot afford the empty platitudes of allies not quite candid
enough to admit that they live under the umbrella of American power.
That often leaves us isolated.

This neo-con position relies on the idea that US hegemony is essentially

benign. It considers that the US operates in the real world, where there
are identifiable threats to the future of free, democratic societies. They
suggest that most of Europe has forgotten this, arguing that European
countries rely on security cover from the USA.

Obviously there is substantial opposition to this point of view. Realists

would object to the idealism of the neo-cons. The desire to spread a
particular set of values would be considered by many realists to be
dangerous moralising. Some realists who just tend to concentrate on the
structural features of global politics, argue that unipolarity creates its own
opposition. Much depends on whether other states decide to bandwagon
or balance. Those who tend to argue that unipolarity is unsustainable in
the long term suggest that balancing behaviour is most likely. This is
because, as Heywood (p236) notes in a context of anarchy, rising or
major powers are an object of particular fear, as there is no constraint on

how they may treat weaker states. Those suggesting that US hegemony
is benign, and acts in the interests of all (as do hegemonic stability
theorists for instance) would perhaps align themselves more with the
bandwagoning argument. See discussion below.

Hegemonic stability theory:

Some realists believe that the existence of a hegemonic power tends to

create opposition, and that hegemony cannot therefore last for more than
a short period of time. Others disagree. In both neorealist (e.g. Gilpin
1987) and neoliberal (e.g. Keohane 1989) versions of hegemonic stability
theory (HST), it is argued that the rule of the hegemon results in net
benefits for all states, large and small.

However, Gilpin & Keohane, the originators of the HST term, actually
thought that the USA acted as a real hegemon for only a short period of

For two decades following the Second World War, the United
States, largely for political and security reasons, subordinated
many of its parochial economic interests to the economic wellbeing of its alliance partnersIn the late 1960s, however, the US
began to pursue economic policies that were more self-centred
(and) by the 1980s, the US was pursuing protectionist,
macroeconomic, and other policies that could be identified as
appropriate to.a predatory hegemon. (Gilpin)

Snidal adds that there is no longer any reason to assume that the
distribution of benefits favors smaller states (Snidal 1985). Thus, the
suggestion has been that real hegemony is essentially benign that it
accommodates the interests of those covered by its security umbrella.
Now though, so the argument goes, the US is a hegemon of a whole
different, rather unpleasant type. This raises the question of whether the
original alleged advantage of hegemony, stability, will be as attractive to
the subordinate powers in the relationship.

To take one example, from the early 1980s, the IMF and World Bank came
under the control of the Washington Consensus, in which neoliberal

principles were taken to new heights. Originally founded with a mission

that was guided by Keynesian economic policies, aimed at stimulating
global aggregate demand, they now became increasingly supply-side
oriented, and determined to affect the restructuration of both macro- and
micro- aspects of states economies. In many cases, these new policies
were failures. According to Joseph Stiglitz, a former World Bank Senior Vice
President and Chief Economist,

[I]n spite of IMFs efforts during the past quarter century, crises
around the world have been more frequent and (with the
exception of the Great Depression) deeper. By some reckonings,
close to a hundred countries have faced crises. Worse, many of
the policies that the IMF pushed, in particular, premature capital
market liberalization, have contributed to global instability. And
once a country was in crisis, IMF funds and programs not only
failed to stabilize the situation but in many cases actually made
matters worse, especially for the poor. The IMF failed in its
original mission of promoting global stability (Stiglitz 2002, p.

Michael Mann defines hegemony in the following terms; a word which

indicates that imperial power establishes the rules of the game by which
others routinely play (structural power, in the terminology). They (the
others, the subordinates) may come to also approve of the rules as well,
so that hegemony becomes genuinely legitimate. But the basis of
hegemony is more a matter-of-fact acceptance of things as they are.
Then peoples own everyday actions help reproduce the dominance
without much thought. (Note- hegemony does not therefore mean quite
the same thing as unipolarity.unipolarity is just a statement about
capacity, it does not say anything about whether the power is legitimate
or not, benign or malign).

He notes that the problem for the US is that hegemony should be an

invisible hand, lying behind the accepted rules of the game. The catch is
that to be hegemonic, the US might have to play by the rules. An empire
based on highly visible militarism abandons the rules and so risks losing

hegemony. Joseph Nye expressed this as the pursuit of hard power

threatening Americas soft power.

So the suggestion is that hegemony can only really be maintained with

large doses of consent. Consent, in political terminology, translates as

Is the US an empire? If it is, is this a good thing? The neo-cons say yes,
because the world is a dangerous place and the US is essentially
benevolent (hence all the stuff about American exceptionalism they
believe that the US has something special to offer the worldthe world
looks up to the USthey want to live there etc). Others (liberals such as
Nye for instance) would perhaps agree that the US could be benign, but
that blatantly pushing its own agenda as the neo-cons have done is not
the best way to sustain a hegemonic position.

Those who say, yes, the US is an empire, but no it is not a good thing (ie
Chomsky), are suspicious of American power. They feel that US
domination does not just exist, rather it is perpetuated by US behaviour. It
attempts, aggressively, to sustain its place as the predominant power. He
would suggest that the result of hegemony is domination (although you
couldnt say that he is coming at the problem from the same direction as
many realists, he arrives at the same conclusion any hegemon will tend
to attempt to impose itself on others, and understandably creates


Kenneth Waltz, from whose work much of the bipolar/multipolar debate

originates, argues, in essence, that a bipolar world is in fact the most
stable and durable for peace in the international system. For him, in a
multi-polar world there are more opportunities for miscalculations
between the many alliances and groupings that form, leading to more
instability. He considers the post 1945 era as a test case of bipolarity as
relative stability, and 1650 1945 as a, rather long, era of unstable

There are a number of possible criticisms of Waltzs theory. First, it has

been suggested that the post 1945 era was not actually bipolar at all.
China was a major player in world affairs, and Sino-Soviet relations were
not good (China and the USSR actually experienced significant direct
military clashes in 1969 the USSR felt it necessary to allocate a massive
military force on their eastern frontier). The US eventually begun to
cultivate relations with China in the late 1960s/early 1970s (see Nixons
visit in 1972). This all, arguably, impacted on the Cold War relationship
between the US and the Soviet Union, and in the eventual demise of the
latter. We could, therefore, suggest that the world was to some extent at
least, tripolar during this period.

Second, and perhaps more important as a criticism, is Waltzs idea that

multipolar systems are more likely to lead to miscalculations about
capabilities and intentions of other states. In a bipolar world, in contrast,
uncertainty lessens and calculations are easier to make. He does suggest
that bipolar systems can make overreaction more likely, but this is less
serious than the possible miscalculations that can take place in
multipolarity. One of his main examples is the start of the 1st World War.
He argues that the outbreak of war was due to a series of miscalculations
by Austria-Hungary, Germany, Russia and France. But one could argue
that what took place was the result of both miscalculation and
overreaction by all parties to the conflict. These categories
(miscalculation, overreaction) are just not clear enough criteria to use to
determine the relative stability of particular periods of history.

Third, and perhaps most telling as a criticism, is that there was one factor
present since 1945 that could have been far more significant than
whether the system was bipolar or multipolar. That factor was nuclear
weapons. It could have been the presence of this special class of military
capability rather than the bipolar situation that ensured relative stability
(it must be noted at this point that Waltz may have been unaware how
close the Soviet Union came to firing a nuclear weapon during the Cuban
missile crisis in 1962 {the details of quite how close a Soviet submarine
came to firing a nuclear missile only emerged in 2002} so if that was
stability, God help us!).

Waltz has revised his views slightly. He now considers the presence of
nuclear weapons to be of equal importance to the bipolar structure of the
international system in ensuring the longest peace yet known (again, he
seems to forget the huge number of wars, of all kinds, that have taken
place, and continue to take place possibly because they are in the global
south? Since 1998 approximately 5.4 million people have died as a result
of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo {DRC}the worlds
deadliest conflict since the 2nd World War). This relaxed view of other
kinds of conflict (basically, he ignores them) comes from his realist
perspective. The real problems of global order centre on relations
between states. From this perspective it is possible to see the world as
relatively peaceful (although even this ignores ie the Iran/Iraq war in the


Singer and Deutsch suggest that a multipolar system is in fact more

stable because the major powers have more incentive and opportunity for
cooperation and are more likely to have their attention diffused from just
focusing on one polar antagonist. Most neo-realists argue, however, that it
creates greater uncertainty about the behaviour of other states and is,
therefore less likely to produce order and security (see all discussions
about multipolarity in notes on shareflow and in textbook).

These arguments tend still to think in terms of realism (and scepticism in

the globalisation debates). Other theories of global order which take the
(alleged) processes of globalisation much more seriously may argue that,
while these debates are important, there are other things going on in the
world. For instance, global order may increasingly be emerging via state
and non-state actors creating a myriad network of global governance
structures. Here is Heywood (p233), Three broader developments have
supported the fragmentation and pluralisation of global power, and
perhaps suggest that all state-centric models of world order (bipolar,
unipolar and multipolar) are outmoded. The first of these developments is
unfolding globalisation.the second development is the growing trend
towards global and sometimes regional government.finally (these
trends) have both had the effect of strengthening the role of non-state

actors in world affairs (TNCs, NGOs, terrorist networks, international crime

syndicates etc etc). Thus, the debate above could well be limited and
slightly anachronistic. Or at least it is just one debate amongst many.